Mystified by 'easy' Finnish language

12th September 2008 at 01:00
I am baffled by Rachel Gallacher's premise that English is "difficult" to learn and that Finnish is, by implication, "easy" ("Finland is an unfair comparison", TES, August 22).

I have shown her letter to a fourth-year linguistics student at Oxford University and a Finn who speaks both Finnish and Swedish. Both of them teach English in Finland and are perplexed by her argument.

I speak passable Swedish and get by in the other Nordic languages, but Finnish still defeats me, despite spending a lot of time there. It is beyond me how Ms Gallacher can describe as "easily accessed" a language with 16 verb declensions, and with words that increase in length by the continued addition of prefixes and endings until you have to process the whole huge word in one go to understand what the speaker is talking about.

If Ms Gallacher is "labouring to teach through the complicated English language", perhaps she needs to go on a Finnish exchange to find out just how they slip into our "opaque" language with such apparent ease and confidence. The Finns are experiencing the same pressures on society as we are, but she may find a "good" education for everybody has been a given - not merely an aspiration - there for many decades.

Jeff Teasdale, Macclesfield, Cheshire.

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